Military to MBA | How To Get Into Business School After Your Service

Whether you’re a veteran or still in the military, if you want an MBA, you should apply! Business schools can’t wait to have you! Your military experience has given you elite leadership skills that will enable you to succeed in almost any business environment. MBA programs know this, which is why they all want military applicants!! There’s no best “military friendly MBA program,” because they all are.

But how do you make that big pivot from them military leadership to civilian leadership through the MBA? Angela Guido is here with 3 quick tips on avoiding bad advice, writing good (classified) stories, and getting into the best business school possible. Quick note! A lot of the specifics like the G.I. Bill and Yellow Ribbon program are tailored for the American military, but much of the advice is still relevant for overseas service members too.

Thank you for your service.

We LOVE working with military applicants to highlight your unique experiences in a way civilians can understand.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

The bottom line is, the same rules that apply to everyone – management consultants, nonprofit leaders, and military applicants – the same rules apply when you're writing your essays. You want to choose the experiences that are the most important to you and then do your best to show those stories in a vivid way that allows the admissions committee to really get who you are. Welcome back to MBA Monday. This is a very special MBA Monday because this video is just for our friends in the military. If you are a military veteran or a live active duty service member, this video is for you.

Welcome back to MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. And today I'm sharing three tips for military applicants. You all are a really special group. As you may know, you're in high demand in MBA programs because the leadership development training you've received on the job in the military is unlike any other training anyone could ever receive anywhere in the world. Some of the very best leaders and managers of companies have a military background, and business schools know this. They know that so many companies will not be able to wait to get their hands on you because you've been trained – in some cases literally in the trenches – how to lead under crisis, under difficulty with scarce resources, with diverse individuals from all different backgrounds, your leadership skills have been forged in the crucible of real world events that affect us all. So business schools are very excited when they see military applicants. So the first thing you need to know – this is not a tip – but the first thing you need to know is if you're interested in business school, you should absolutely apply. Schools will be eager to get to know you and eager to take your candidacy very, very seriously.

3 Tips For Military MBA Applicants

Okay, so the first tip for military applicants is to do really good research on military funding for graduate school.

Most folks completing their military service are eligible for G.I. Bill funding for graduate school, which may or may not cover the full tuition of an MBA program. And so you'll want to also look into the Yellow Ribbon Program, through which most MBA programs are providing supplemental funding for you to complete your MBA. A lot of the military folks that we have worked with have ended up getting free MBAs through some combination of these funding programs and sometimes even additional stipends and scholarships from the school, because like I said, you're in high demand. So be sure to do your research on all of the different kinds of funding available. I'm putting a link below to a blog post on our website that goes all into the Yellow Ribbon Program, and which schools have which funding, and really useful links to complete that research. So be sure to really look closely at funding to make sure that you're taking advantage of all the resources available to you.

The second is really more like something not to do.

So some of the advice that you may hear is that you need to make yourself sound like a business person, and importantly, in your resume, you need to make it sound like you've been doing a business job. And if you have been in a position where you've been managing a supply chain or managing operations or managing a team to implement tech solutions, a lot of what the military is doing these days is very much like business. So if you've been doing those things great, highlight them on your resume, that's for sure useful. But if you've been deployed and your primary job has been like live action defense in war zone, that's also really meaningful and frankly interesting to the admissions committee. So don't try to business yourself down in the application. Your job is to really showcase that you've been the best version of what you are, as you can possibly be. So if you've been doing covert ops and bringing down individuals in secret that we'll never be able to know about because you can't release that information publicly, then your job is to highlight that on your resume and showcase the degree to which the things that you've done have been exceptional, meaningful, and valuable to the mission of the organization that you're a part of. And, of course, every branch of the military has slightly different mandates, slightly different fields of expertise and practice. And so you want to really just showcase the best of what you've done and going hand in hand with this is, of course, protecting classified information. There will be a lot of things that you likely won't be able to divulge in any way in your application. So this makes a particularly unique challenge for military folks, because you have to convey visibly and clearly what you've done, how it contributed to the mission, and that it was successful and meaningful, without revealing key, vivid details that would show them where geographically you were and who you were talking about and what weapons and all of that, you have to hide all of that. So be sure to reference the MBA resume protocol, because in that series of articles, we've got a really sort of intuitive framework to help you think through how to explain what you've done in vivid but also appropriately sanitized ways so that the reader can just really get the meaning and the import and the stakes of what you did without you having to reveal classified information. But this is kind of the flip side of the mistake of trying to business yourself down that I see military applicants make, and that is being too vague in the resume. So I promise you – we've worked with folks from literally every branch of the military – I promise you, there's a way to convey your achievements in vivid terms that aren't vague, but that are also appropriately classified. So you're going to have to struggle with that but it's a really good struggle because it's also going to prepare you for your post-MBA job interviews, when you're talking to companies, you could have to be able to tell vivid stories about what you did in the military while keeping classified information classified. So start practicing. Start building that muscle now.

Alright, third piece of advice, which is kind of a corollary of the first, is when you're tackling your essays, you really want to show the admissions committee who you are.

If you've been watching our channel, if you've seen even one video you know that this is really what we think the MBA application is all about. It's all about showing the admissions committee your most authentic, best self. And so if your most meaningful experience was leading an expedition in the wilderness and bringing all of your team back alive despite live-fire situations, you might think that's not business relevant, but it is nonetheless the most important defining experience of your military leadership career and is therefore really important to talk about. And so telling stories about military experiences, first of all, they're super interesting to read if you do it right. Military applicant essays are sometimes the most interesting, like the most riveting for the reader, because we've all seen war movies, we can relate to some of the experiences that you've had, even though we haven't actually been in that situation ourselves. So don't shy away from talking about your less business-oriented military experiences in your essays, if those are the ones that are most important to you. And on the flip side, if your most important experiences have been business-like, perhaps you manage a team to implement a tech solution across multiple platoons or battalions or even bases, what have you, there's a lot of logistical complexity behind modern warfare. So if you were involved in a project like that, that was formative in shaping your understanding of leadership, your understanding of who you are and your place in the world, and potentially even motivating your desire to go to business school, then that's what you want to talk about in the essay. So the bottom line is the same rules that apply to everyone – management consultants, nonprofit leaders, and military applicants – the same rules apply when you're writing your essays. You want to choose the experiences that are the most important to you, and then your best to show those stories in a vivid way that allows the admissions committee to really get who you are. The bottom line is they're not looking for military applicants to fit into a box, to apply a cookie cutter approach, or to try to make themselves look like McKinsey consultants in the application. They want to know that you have made the most of your career in the military and that you're showing them that in your application, it's a little understood fact that what all schools are really looking for is just the best of the best of whatever you are. So if you're a logistics officer who's managing communications in really challenging wartime situation, or if you spent your whole career in the barracks because you are never deployed, it doesn't matter, they just want to know that you are the best at whatever it is that you did, that you took your career to a point of excellence, that you really tried, that you cared, and that you made a difference with the resources that you had. So show the admissions committee that in your essays. And don't worry about if you look business-like or not, that's not really what they're expecting of you. They're expecting you to be tried and true leaders in a different context, and they know that the reason you're pursuing an MBA is so that you can translate that into a civilian context, that's what they're there to provide. You don't need to show them that you're already a business dude or dudette before you apply, you just be who you are.

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Okay. If you want any specific advice about your application, please request a free MBA strategy call with our team. We love talking to military applicants. We love hearing your stories, and we're happy to even give you some tactful advice on your resume in those conversations to help you discern if you're translating your military experience into terminology and language that anyone can understand, which is the role of the resume. So if you need individual help, please be in touch. We'd love to speak with you and, in any event, thank you for your service and really, best of luck in your MBA applications. I know that literally every school cannot wait to hear from you. I'll see you next week.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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